You’re a diligent gym-attendee, with a strict program that you follow, day-in, day-out. But lately, something has happened: your usual zest for your workout has gone, you feel lacklustre about exercise, and you don’t seem to be progressing at all, despite all your hard efforts. No, you’re not going crazy, but you could be overtraining.
What does it mean to overtrain? At its basic form, overtraining happens when you perform more training that your body can recover from. There are several factors that can lead to overtraining, including a sudden increase in exercise frequency, intensity or duration of training sessions. Another common cause is not allowing your body adequate time to recover from the strain of constant exercise and physical activity, whether that be in or out of the gym setting.
Below are some classic symptoms, and what you can do to remedy this situation and get back on track:
You have lost the desire to workout
If you’re a regular gym junkie, you know that lack of motivation will ring alarm bells when it comes to working out. This is beyond just feeling bored with your usual routine – when you are overtraining, you just can’t be bothered in general, and the whole idea of exercise is a turnoff.
You reach a plateau
We tend to think that the more we lift, the further we run and the more hours we clock in the gym, the better we get. With exercise however, the mantra of ‘more is better’ is very far from the truth. When we push our bodies to the extreme, they are not going to react with results all of the time. If you find yourself not gaining muscle, not getting fitter, or simply not progressing with your workout regime (this includes going backwards and feeling as though you are losing fitness), it may be time to take a break.
Your resting heart rate is higher than usual
If you feel your heart racing when you’re performing normal, everyday activities, this may be a sign that you are overdoing it in the gym. Keep this in check by measuring your morning heart rate by feeling your pulse with your two main fingers before you stand up to get out of bed in the morning.
You’re always thirsty
When you’re constantly reaching for the water bottle, and chugging down the litres, this may be a sign that your body is in a catabolic state (a form of energy metabolism). Being in this state can cause thirst, which is one of the first signs of dehydration.
Your muscles are unusually sore for longer than normal
When you are pushing yourself in the gym, it is quite normal to experience muscle soreness the following day or two post workout. If, however, you feel soreness beyond around 72 hours, it may be evidence that you need a break.
You get sick more frequently
This can be a frustrating one, as I bet for all intents and purposes, you are eating clean, getting enough sleep (or trying to) and doing all the “right” things. Despite this, you still find yourself getting sick. This may be due to the fact that your immune system is under stress from your overtraining.
You’re finding it difficult to sleep and can’t concentrate as easily
If you’re feeling restless, excitable and are finding it difficult to focus, this may point to overtraining. This can be the case, even on your planned rest day. Why is this? The body is reacting to being in a state of constant stress (from the increased and demanding exercise regime), which in turn affects the body’s nervous system, which may cause sleep disturbance and levels of concentration.
If you’re experiencing any or all of these symptoms, take a step back from your workout and do what you can to get your body back to its prime operating conditions. I will follow up soon with a post about how you can get back on track after overtraining.